What It’s Like To Photograph Wildfires

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What It’s Like To Photograph Wildfires

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What It’s Like To Photograph Wildfires

A photographer talks about the dangers and rewards of capturing firestorms.

Not many disasters, whether natural or manmade, are as viscerally powerful or visually arresting as wildfires. And unlike an earthquake, for example, which might last mere seconds, a wildfire is a slow-motion cataclysm that can rage for days or even weeks. For Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan, covering wildfires — especially in his native California, where he has been photographing the Carr Fire — has become something of a minor obsession. Here, he talks with FOTO about what makes for a powerful fire picture; staying safe while covering firestorms; and when it’s time to put down the camera and help people in need.

CLEARLAKE, CA - AUGUST 03: A Cal Fire firefighter is silhouetted by his headlamp as he monitors a backfire while battling the Rocky Fire on August 3, 2015 near Clearlake, California. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are battling the Rocky Fire that has burned over 60,000 acres has forced the evacuation of 12,000 residents in Lake County. The fire is currently 12 percent contained and has destroyed at least 14 homes. 6,300 homes are threatened by the fast moving blaze. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Justin Sullivan/Getty Images EVER-CHANGING


“I don’t consider myself a ‘fire photographer,'” Sullivan told FOTO. “But there’s a group of us in the Bay Area who end up working together on wildfires. We’re all drawn to fires for a number of reasons. For one thing, a wildfire is ever-changing. It’s not like covering a flood, where you go and shoot a week of receding waters. A fire is fluid from the get-go, and then there are pockets of time during the day, like the late afternoon, when the wind routinely picks up and things can get pretty chaotic really fast.” [Pictured: Light from his headlamp silhouettes a firefighter as he monitors a backfire lit near Clearlake, California, August 2015.]


TAGS : wildfire photography, wildfire photographs

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